The Adverts: Cast Of Thousands

THE ADVERTS, with unforeseen stamina, have substantially matured since their early days. No longer can technical inadequacy or limited vocabulary be criticisms – just the opposite in fact. Crudity has grown into ceremony.

The Adverts these days are a vain, sluttish combination of Iggy’s grace, Talking Head’s compulsion and Springsteen’s drive, with lyrics that are a conversational extension of Gary Numan’s self-important visions of the state of the world, its fate and its brutality.

Sounds a fab fusion? It ain’t.

So a few more shapes, a bit of depth, and lots of derelict piano have been added to the original sound, which has been severely sandpapered by producer Tom Newman (of Mike Oldfield fame), yet can’t escape the clutches of the ever-earnest Gaye Advert’s plodding bass.

The man responsible for the songs, the arguments and the hope, is nihilist and nitwit TV Smith, whose vocals artlessly strive for notice. The songs are indiscriminately moulded into imposing sub-epics, looming and even hymnal – notably the title track, featuring Kid Strange, where the music attempts to match the content (only a skimming summary of the WORLD).

‘Television Is Over’ sees the end of the world, contorts and complains itself into a right state, and isn’t the only song to feature mongrel choirs. A line from this song “I’ve just seen the dead/And they don’t seem jealous of my life”– is typical of Smith’s hardest imagery.

At least it’s obvious that Gary Numan took five minutes over his words – which sometimes works, sometimes not – and he can’t keep a straight face. TV Smith took a lot longer, and can keep a straight face very well.

He sneers on ‘Fate Of Criminals’, and is full of determination on ‘My Place’. He worries a lot on ‘The Adverts’ and tries to love on ‘Love Songs’ and ‘I Will Walk You Home’. He sings song of war (‘Male Assault’), and existentialist choice, (‘I Looked At The Sun’). He’s hardly a defeatist, but he wonders what it’s like to be one on ‘I Surrender’.

After hearing all this you’ll never be moved or even particularly | sympathetic. Both the music and the words try hard – too hard – but are ultimately ineffective and inconsequential. Too much is missing, too much has been done by other people before, a lot better.

There are now five Adverts. Smith, Gaye and guitarist Howard Pickup are originals, drummer Rod Latter and keyboardist Tim Cross are new. This ugly crew grace the cover in full colour and mascara. Smith the only one looking into the camera, Gaye the only one not covered by a misty film. The cover is like the music: straight-faced, carefully designed, interesting in perverse way, with lots of things to put you off.

The Adverts remain squalid outsiders. TV Smith probably loves that. Nothing can kill them off, it seems.

© Paul MorleyNew Musical Express, 20 October 1979

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